Meet the Couple behind “Wander North Georgia”
Josh and Alex Brown had a successful life in Athens. They’d just started their family, they had a nice house, they owned a popular community center — you could definitely say they were living the dream.
“It just wasn’t our dream,” Alex said. “Our business was basically running us.”
“Instead of working a 40-hour week, where we could still enjoy our lives, we were working about 60 hours a week,” Josh said.
To balance their hectic schedule, the Browns would drive out to North Georgia every weekend and explore a di erent area, using these small getaways as way to decompress and relax.
The couple had always talked about moving to the mountains, and they even looked at houses each time they would make the trip, but at that point, their dream still seemed far fetched. “Then the stars just kind of aligned for us,” Alex said. They saw a house in their neighborhood sell quickly, so the Browns decided to give it a try and see if they’d have the same luck with their home. After only a week, their house sold at asking price, and Josh and Alex saw that their goal was within reach.
THE MOUNTAIN LIFE
“Two days after our house in Athens went under contract, this house we’d had our eye on came back onto the market,” Alex said. Everything continued to fall into place, and the Browns made the move to the mountains right after Christmas.
In preparation for moving from a 2,000-square-foot home to their 900-square-foot cabin, the couple sold over half of everything they owned, including one of their cars, almost all of their clothes and most of their furniture.
“Having to do that really makes you more conscious of what you do and do not need,” Josh said. “We realized that most of the stuff we had in our old house, we didn’t use anyways.”
“Now we literally use every square inch of this house; everything we own has a purpose,” Alex said. “It’s very utilitarian.”
It’s tough for anyone to make a big transition, and the Browns are no exception.
“Our friends and family thought we’d lost our minds when we first moved,” Alex said. “And there’s definitely been some culture shock; the way of life up here is just totally different.”
But tough transitions can lead to good experiences. The Browns enjoy the simpler life and feel very fortunate that they’ve been able to chase their dreams into the North Georgia mountains.
“It’s like being on vacation all the time,” Josh said. “It’s a much less stressful way of life.” Both Josh and Alex now work from home for their graphic design business, DayBlind, so they get to spend much more time together as a family.
“We also feel like we’re raising a wild child,” Josh said about their son. “The other day I was sitting at my desk and watched him run outside naked with a stick in his hand and chase a possum up a tree.”
WANDERING AND WILD
Once they made the decision to move, they got the idea to create a blog called Wander North Georgia — “a project focused on the North Georgia mountains and the communities that call them home.” The blog, wandernorthga.com, is home to many articles that highlight everything from different types of trails to the best local Airbnb spots. The blog also has an Instagram account, @wandernorthga, which is a collaborative effort with their followers and is mostly made up of photos the Browns have re-posted from those who use the hashtag #wandernorthga.
“We were just kind of messing around when we started this, but we were able to grow a loyal following quickly,” Josh said. “Our dream come true would be to make Wander North Georgia our full-time job.” With that objective in mind, they have spent time working with the State Parks and National Forests as well as trying to partner with local businesses to host a variety of outdoor events. To find out what events Wander North Georgia has lined up, you can visit northgeorgiasocialclub.com.
“The so-called mission behind Wander North Georgia is just to get people [away from] their screens,” Josh said. “If we can get people to [get outside], then we’ve achieved our goal.”
SO … GET OUTSIDE!
If you want a day tailored to you and your family, shoot Josh and Alex an email through the blog and they’d be more than happy to create an itinerary for you. If you’re just looking for some expert suggestions, here are just a few of their ideas.
The Browns’ favorite spot for car camping is Raven Cliff Falls outside of Helen. It’s a (free!) primitive campsite (no running water, but yes, there’s a bathroom), and it’s minutes away from another great hike at Dukes Creek Falls. If you need groceries, check out Betty’s Country Store; or if camp cooking is intimidating, eat at Village Tavern for the “best pizza in the world.”
A DAY ON THE WATER
Escape the heat by visiting one of Rabun County’s many lakes or rivers. Rabun Boathouse, also known as “Hal’s Boathouse” on Lake Rabun offers boat rentals and fishing trips, or rafting down the Chattooga at Bull Sluice. Minnehaha Falls, Angel Falls and Hemlock Falls are must-sees in the area. For a unique shopping experience, check out Personify in Lakemont, and if you’re hungry, head into Clayton and visit the Universal Joint, Clarks’ on Main or Fortify Kitchen & Bar. If it’s a kids-free trip, end the day at Tiger Mountain Vineyard and try their nationally recognized, award-winning wines.
If you’re looking to “rough it,” start with a section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). The best scenic or day-hike option is to go up Blood Mountain from Neels Gap. Be sure to check out Mountain Crossings outfitter at the base of the mountain, as it is the only place on the AT that is covered (the trail runs through their building). You can also try the approach trail to the AT at Amicalola Falls State Park for a scenic waterfall view. The Bartram Trail offers nearly 40 miles of North Georgia trails before running into North Carolina.
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